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VIETNAM: 1976 



Senator George McGovern 

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Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Relations 

67-241 WASHINGTON : 1976 


JOHN SPARKMAN, Alabama, Chairman 

GALE W. McGEE, Wyoming 
GEORGE S. McGOVERN, South Dakota 
JOSEPH R. BIDEN, Jr., Delaware 

HUGH SCOTT, Pennsylvania 

Pat M. Holt, Chief of Staff 
Arthur M. Kuhl, Chief Clerk 




Letter of transmittal v 

Conclusions and recommendations 1 

Humanitarian issues 2 

The Paris Agreement reconsidered 9 

A. A negotiated victory 9 

B. The pattern of violations 10 

C. Persistent compliance 11 

D. The process of agreeing to aid 13 

The Political future of Vietnam 17 

A. Internal developments 17 

B. The bloodbath issue 19 

C. Vietnam's international posture 20 


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in 2013 


United States Senate, 
Committee on Foreign Relations, 
Washington, B.C., February 89, 1976. 

Hon. John Sparkman, 

Chairman, Committee on Foreign Relations, 

U.S. Senate, Washington, B.C. 

Dear Mr. Chairman : Enclosed you will find a report on the trip I 
undertook to Vietnam in January. 

I left Washington on January 1, and visited Portugal, Pakistan, 
India and Bangladesh before concluding my study mission with five 
days in Vietnam. I will be forwarding to you separate reports on 
Portugal and on South Asia. 

My stay in Vietnam was too brief to permit a detailed evaluation 
of conditions in that country, particularly since the time was divided 
between Hanoi and Saigon. However I did have productive and in- 
formative discussions with leaders in both Hanoi and Saigon. These 
included, in Hanoi, the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of 
Vietnam, Pham Vin Dong, and Xuan Thuy, former Paris negotiator, 
vice chairman of the Standing Committee and chairman of the For- 
eign Relations Committee of the DRV. 

In Saigon I was received at Independence Palace by Mr. Huynh 
Tan Phat, president of the Provisional Revolutionary Government, 
and I had several comprehensive talks with Mrs. Nguyen Thi Binh, 
foreign minister of the PRG. In both North and South, I was accom- 
panied by knowledgeable and helpful protocol officers and members of 
committees for "Solidarity with the American People," who were pre- 
pared to answer questions on a wide range of subjects. I was asked 
upon my arrival what I wanted to see and what issues I wanted to dis- 
cuss, and compliance with those requests was nearly complete. The 
one exception was my interest in inspecting the "Hanoi Hilton" 
where many U.S. prisoners of war were kept, and the explanation of 
a lack of time seemed credible because the visit had been scheduled for 
the day of our return from Saigon and the plane was delayed until 
very late. 

The trip had two primary objectives: First, to pursue American 
humanitarian interests regarding missing-in-action personnel, Ameri- 
cans in the South, and families which were separated at the end of the 
war, and, second, to seek some sense of the political future and inter- 
national posture of post-war Vietnam. These issues were the main 
topics of conversation with all Vietnamese officials, and they are the 
primary subjects of this report. 



Our visas to enter Vietnam were granted through the embassy of 
the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Paris. The staff of the Foreign 
Relations Committee, and Jan Xovins in particular, provided indis- 
pensable help in working out complex travel arrangements. In prepar- 
ing for our discus-ions in Vietnam, I received helpful information 
from the Department of State and a detailed briefing and background 
memorandum from the House of Representatives Select Committee on 
Missing Persons in Southeast Asia. The Chairman of that Committee, 
Congressman G. V. Montgomery of Mississippi, offered the full co- 
operation of his Committee and its staff. I am most grateful to all of 
those who helped make this a successful venture, and I extend special 
thanks to those who accompanied me to Vietnam: My wife, Eleanor; 
George Ashworth of the Committee Staff, my foreign affairs special- 
ist, John Holum; my secretary. Pat Donovan; and Robert Shrum, 
staff director of the Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. 
Through their expertise, independent inquiries, and careful notes, each 
member of my party has made important contributions to this report. 

George McGoverx. 

VIETNAM: 1976 

Conclusions axd Recommendations 

For many years into the future Vietnam will be preoccupied with 
mammoth internal tasks of physical reconstruction and political, eco- 
nomic, and cultural consolidation. I think the United States has both 
an interest and an obligation to wish them well in that enterprise. 

American cooperation with the Vietnamese government, moving to- 
ward normal relations, is by far the best way to resolve such humani- 
tarian issues as accounting of Americans missing in action, the reuni- 
fication of families, and other questions — which have remaned unset- 
tled for too long. Indeed, continuing the hostility and totally rejecting 
the Paris Agreement amount to an abandonment of any specific legal 
claim we ma} T have on the MIA question. We have no real cause to 
withhold recognition, to block Vietnamese membership in the United 
Nations, or to embargo trade. We gain nothing from those step.-. They 
can only insult and offend the government whose cooperation we must 
have if we are to end the anxiety of so many American families. 

The question of our relations with Vietnam also bears on our broader 
international interests. We must have learned by now, particularly 
after our experiences with the Peoples Republic of China and with 
Cuba, that it is a self-defeating policy to wage economic and political 
warfare against other countries simply because we disagree with their 
ideology or because we consider that it was somehow unfair of their 
new rulers to prevail over those we preferred. Especially in the case 
of smaller countries, it is clearly not in our interest to force a heavy 
dependence on a competitive power. Vietnam does not want domina- 
tion by any external force, and it makes no sense to push them that 
way. It will be counter productive to isolate them to the point where 
they can have only ties that have strings. 

Further, in the post- Vietnam period both the Legislative and Execu- 
tive branches have been evolving new principles for the conduct and 
content of America's international relations. We are moving at dif- 
ferent paces and from different directions, and it may be some years 
before we can point to a cohesive and coherent new policy. But there 
is a growing recognition that we must abandon the old concepts of 
ideological blocs, and begin to evaluate each country individually. 
accounting for its nationalistic aspirations and its view of its proper 
role in the world. 

Vietnam is an eminently logical place to apply these new preceptions. 
Wartime rhetoric about a vindictive, bloodthirsty people was tragi- 
cally wide of the mark, as many Americans supposed at the time. 
We'll educated, highly civilized leaders of both the Democratic Re- 
public of Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of 
I he South are anxious to heal both the internal and external wounds of 


war, and they are determined to retain the independence which they 
saw as the overriding aim of their struggle. Nowhere in the world, 
and particularly among developing countries, can we really insist 
upon a much better result. Accommodation there will bear fruit. And 
at the site of our longest and most bitterly disputed war, it will also 
demonstrate in a unique way that we have found once again the wis- 
dom, sensitivity, and compassion for which we would like to be known. 

As to specific steps, I recommend, first, that we abandon forthwith 
the present trade restrictions and freezing of assets ; that we formally 
recognize the new Vietnamese government which will be established 
after the nationwide elections expected during the first half of 1976 ; 
and that we drop at the same time any further objection to a Vietnam- 
ese seat in the United Nations. 

Second, we should not lightly dismiss the Vietnamese contention 
that the Paris Peace Agreement remains in effect. As I have de- 
scribed in the body of this report, there is a strong legal and logical 
basis for that view. It is supported by the conduct of the DRV and 
PEG in the period between the signing of the agreement and the 
collapse of the Saigon government. Further, beyond the implementa- 
tion of Article 8(b) on those missing and presumed dead in Vietnam, 
there are terms in the agreement — particularly bearing on the inter- 
national conduct of Vietnam — which are firmly in line with U.S. 
objectives and, indeed, with the hopeful expectations about Vietnam 
which have been declared recently in major foreign policy addresses 
by President Ford and Secretary Kissinger. 

Acceptance of the continuing relevance of the Paris Agreement 
would, of course, involve acceptance of an obligation for reconstruc- 
tion aid under Article 21 of the Agreement, A strong moral, humani- 
tarian and practical case for such aid can be made in any event. I believe 
it is in our interest to contribute to the reconstruction effort, as we did 
in Germany and Japan after World War II, regardless of the agree- 
ment. But in any case, I have concluded on the basis of my discussions 
there that the Vietnamese are quite flexible on the nature and amount of 
aid they would regard as fulfillment of our obligations under Article 
21. We should seek to reopen direct official discussions of all out- 
standing issues — not only the MIA question but reconstruction assist- 
ance as well — to learn what they have in mind. At the outset we 
should indicate that we are prepared to join other countries with at 
least a modest program of aid. 

Humanitarian Issues 

Article 8(b) of the January, 1973, Agreement on Ending the War 
and Restoring Peace in Vietnam provides that — 

The parties shall help each other to get information about those military 
personnel and foreign civilians of the parties missing in action, to determine 
the location and take care of the graves of the dead so as to facilitate the 
exhumation and repatriation of remains, and to take any such measures as 
may be required to get information about those still considered as missing in 

The related protocol provides in Article 10(a) that — 

The Four Party Joint Military Commission shall ensure joint action by the 
parties in implementing Article 8(b) of the Agreement. When the Four-Party 
Joint Military Commission has ended it activities, a Four-Party Joint Military 
Team shall be maintained to carry on this task. 


Unlike the articles relating to the return of prisoners of war, the 
Paris Agreement contained no deadline for an accounting for missing 
in action personnel. Since the Four-Party Joint Military Commission 
was to disappear after 60 days, once U.S. forces had been withdrawn 
and POWs had been returned, the provision for a successor agency in 
fact suggests an implicit assumption in the Agreement that an ac- 
counting for the missing would take quite some time. 

Even so, progress on the implementation of Article 8(b) has been 
almost imperceptible in the three years since the Paris Agreement 
was signed. 

The Four-Party Joint Military Team was established as provided in 
the protocol, and the United States began in April of 1973 to provide 
to the DRY and the PEG lists of all missing personnel, including the 
best available information on where and how each individual was lost. 
Beginning in August of 1973, these computer lists were supplemented 
by folders providing additional details on cases in which there was 
persuasive evidence that either the DRY or the PRG would have 
knowledge of the loss. Folders concerning a total o,f 107 personnel were 
passed on between August, 1973, and February, 1975. 

The DRY and PRG delegations accepted these materials, and they 
have taken no steps to repudiate their obligations under Article 8(b) 
of the Paris Agreement. However, by December of 1975, according to 
material supplied to me by the State Department in preparation for 
my trip to Vietnam, the only substantive progress was the return, in 
March, 1974, of the remains of 23 American airmen who died in 
captivity in North Yietnam. 

The DRY and PRG delegations to the Four-Party Joint Military 
Team withdrew in May of 1974. Article 16 of the Protocol on Cease- 
fire and Joint Military Commissions provided that Commission per- 
sonnel were to receive "full privileges and immunities equivalent to 
those accorded diplomatic missions and diplomatic agents." Yiolations 
of these provisions were cited by the PRG and DRY delegations as the 
reason for their withdrawal. Since the demise of the FPJMT, efforts to 
address MI A questions have continued through the Joint Casualty 
Resolution Center and through the good offices of the United Nations 
High Commissioner on Refugees. 

In April of 1975 the North Yietnamese indicated that they were 
prepared to return the bodies of three airmen who died in their crashes 
in North Yietnam. However, discussions through the DRY embassy in 
Paris broke down when the United States vetoed Yietnamese member- 
ship in the United Nations. Members of the House Select Committee 
on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia met December 6, 1975, with 
Ambassador Yo Yan Sung of the DRY in Paris, and on December 21, 
members o,f the same Committee traveled to Hanoi and, while there, 
received the bodies of the three airmen whose return had been offered 
in April. 

There has been recent attention to two other cases : Those of the two 
Marines who were killed during the evacuation of Saigon in April, 
1975. Senator Kennedy corresponded directly with the Yietnamese 
on this matter, and I also raised it during my discussions in Saigon. 
These efforts have been successful: Two" aides to Senator Kennedy 
traveled to Yietnam in late February and returned with the remains. 

67-241—76 2 

In contrast to this modest progress, the United States lists 2518 
American servicemen and 43 civilians who did not return from South 
east Asia. 1 Of those, 1119 were killed in action or died in captivity, and 
their remains have not been recovered. An additional 565 have been 
presumed dead. Eight hundred thirty-four military personnel and 27 
civilians are still listed as missing in action. Xone of these has been 
accounted for to date. 

At the level of official contact the U.S. effort to obtain an account- 
ing for these people and a repatriation of remains was largely aban- 
doned when the Thieu government collapsed in April of 1975. My 
trip could not be considered in that category, of course, since no 
member of Congress can presume to represent the United States in 
meetings with a foreign government. The informal government-to- 
government discussions in Paris were terminated last summer over the 
United Nations membership issue. 

Further, the Secretary of State has made it difficult indeed for any- 
one to argue for action on the MIA issue as a legal obligation. The 
New York Times reported on November 14, 1975, that Secretary Kiss- 
inger regards the Paris Agreement as "dead." From the standpoint of 
the Vietnamese the most relevant consequence of that position is, of 
course, a repudiation of Article 21 of the Paris Agreement in which 
the United States pledged to ". . . contribute to healing the wounds of 
war and to postwar reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of 
Vietnam and throughout Indochina." 

Aside from rejecting that commitment the Administration cur- 
rently maintains a position of active hostility toward the victors in 
Vietnam. As previously noted, the United States exercised its veto 
power over Vietnamese membership in the United Nations (though, 
since the principle of nonadmission of divided countries — with the 
parallel of Korea — was cited, the logic behind the U.S. objection will 
disappear once Vietnam is reunited). The United States lias also re- 
fused thus far to recognize either Vietnamese government ; hence, there 
are no regular diplomatic channels through which humanitarian issues 
could be pursued. And if the war has ended militarily, the U.S. con- 
tinues to wage an economic struggle against Vietnam through trade 
restrictions — placing that country in the same status as North Korea 
and Cuba. Finally, Vietnamese assets in the United States have been 
frozen. A total of roughly $70 million, primarily deposits in U.S. 
banks, has been tied up by the Treasury Department, after consulta- 
tion with the Department of State. 

There have been recent verbal signals, and one tangible step, to 
suggest that the Administration does not expect to hold a perpetual 
grudge against Vietnam. In an address to the Economic Club of Detroit 
on November 24 of last year, Secretary of State Kissinger stated that 
our relations with the new governments in Southeast Asia . . . 

. . . will no! ho determined by tho past; wo are prepared to look to a more 
hjopeful future. The United States will respond to gestures of jrood will. If those 
governments show understanding of our concerns and those of their neighbors. 
they will find us ready to reciprocate. This will ho especially the v-\yo it they 
deal constructively with the anguish of thousands of Americans who ask only an 
accounting for their loved ones missing in action and the return of the bodies 

1 Tho fixuro inrluoYs porsonnol missing In Lnos and CnmhnoMn. Tho U.S. mnlnffiinort 
after the Paris Aereemenl was signed that since it contained provisions relating to foreign 
troops in Cambodia and Laos, it therefore obliged tho DlfV to account for tho missing in 
those countries. The DRV disclaimed any such responsibility, hut did agree separately to 
assist in arranging t lio return of POWs from Laos. 

of Americans who died in Indochina. We have no interest to continue the Indo- 
china war on the diplomatic front ; we envisage the eventual normalization of 
relations. In the interim we are prepared to consider practical arrangements of 
mutual benefit in such fields as travel and trade. 

President Ford included the same fundamental sentiment in his 
December 7 address on U.S. policy in the Pacific at the East-West 
Center of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu : 

In Indochina, the healing effects of time are required. Our policies toward the 
new regimes of the Peninsula will be determined by their conduct toward us. 
We are prepared to reciprocate gestures of good will — particularly the return of 
remains of Americans killed or missing in action or information about them. 

If they exhibit restraint toward their neighbors and constructive approaches 
to international problems, we will look to the future rather than to the past. 

The one positive step toward reconciliation has been the decision, 
disclosed by Secretary Kissinger to members of the House Select Com- 
mittee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia on November 14, 1975, 
and amplified in the State Department briefing November 17, to 
permit some shipments of humanitarian aid from private organiza- 
tions. The policy against such aid was not reversed, but the Depart- 
ment reevaluated and reversed an earlier objection to a shipment of 
such items as fishnets, rototillers, and wood-screwmaking machines 
by the American Friends Service Committee, an organization with a 
long history of humanitarian involvement in Vietnam. Secretary Kiss- 
inger reportedly told the members of the Select Committee that the 
action was meant as a response to the Provisional Revolutionary Gov- 
ernment's release of 9 Americans, mostly missionaries, who had been 
taken prisoner during the spring, 1975, offensive in the Central High- 
lands. Press accounts also indicate that the Secretary told the Com- 
mittee that the United States was ready to open discussions con- 
cerning the normalization of relations. 2 

In all my discussions with Vietnamese officials I tried to stress these 
positive elements of U.S. policy as an incentive for moving ahead, not 
only on the MIA issue but also on the exit of Americans who were 
caught in Saigon when the Thieu government fell and of relatives and 
dependents of Vietnamese avIio were evacuated. In Saigon. I presented 
Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, Foreign Minister of the Provisional 
Revolutionary Government, with a partial list of Americans known 
to be in South Vietnam, and another list containing particulars on 
Vietnamese — some American citizens and others not — whose relatives 
in the United States had contacted my office when they learned I 
would be traveling to Vietnam. 

I suggested that a favorable response on all of these concerns could 
have a significant impact on movement toward a more satisfactory 
relationship between Vietnam and the United States, and recalled 
in particular that both the American people and American officials 
had welcomed the return of civilian prisoners from the South and 
the presentation of remains to the House Select Committee. 

1 also expressed the personal view that reconstruction aid did not 
seem to be a practical possibility in the near future, especially in light 
of the severe economic difficulties prevailing in the United States. 
Noting the devastation of Vietnam, I pointed out that the war had 
also been extremely costly to the United States — in both spiritual and 
material terms — and that the experience had contributed to a general 

2 "United States Ready to Talk with Indochlnese," New York Times, Nov. 15. 1!)7.~>. 


public disaffection with foreign assistance of all kinds. I also ob- 
served that in the future the question of reconstruction assistance 
would probably be better received if it were raised not as a matter 
of retribution for a nightmare most Americans would rather forget, 
but instead as a positive development program based on mutual re- 
spect and the provision of assistance to people who need aid and 
can use it effectively. 

I received no quarrel on the humanitarian issues. On the contrary, 
both the DRV and the PEG believe they have a positive obligation to 
account for missing persons and to return remains. Difficulties in the 
process of search and identification were cited — Xuan Oanh, secretary 
of the Vietnam Solidarity Committee with the United States, re- 
minded me that they are also searching for thousands of their own 
missing, and told me that he had personally conducted a search for 
many months, without avail, for a member of his own family. But I 
was told repeatedly that the process is continuing and that it will be 
completed to the best of their ability. 

Prime Minister Pham Van Dong responded positively on both the 
question of accounting for missing persons and on reuniting families. 
Our conversation, like most of the other substantive talks during the 
stay in Vietnam, took the form of an opportunity for me to present at 
some length the matters I wanted to discuss, followed by a point-by- 
point response. I had asked for his view on three humanitarian issues — 
on the MIA accounting, the reunification of families, and on the possi- 
bility that some people who had been evacuated, including several who 
had contacted me, might want to return to Vietnam if they could be 
assured they would be received without recriminations. The Prime 
Minister responded : 

We are very much concerned with the three points you raised. There is no 
difficulty with the first two. The third we will have to consider, but on principle 
there will be no difficulty. 8 

In my presentation concerning missing in action personnel, I had 
suggested that even a status report on the lists which had been supplied 
would be quite helpful — a description of the status of their investiga- 
tions, including, where appropriate, a simple statement that they have 
no information. The interpreter translated the Prime Minister's re- 
sponse to the effect that it was a good "idea." However, some time later 
I was advised by Mr. Oanh that an important nuance had been missed, 
and that the Prime Minister had actually indicated approval of the 
"suggestion." Mr. Oanh stressed the difference between conceptual ap- 
preciation of an "idea" and approval of a "suggestion," which implies 
that actions will be taken. Therefore, I expect that there will be a fol- 
low up on the question of a status report. Since there has been no sub- 
stantive reaction to the lists which have been supplied, this would be 
an important step forward. 

I also discussed the MIA issue with Mr. Xuan Thuy, who serves as 
Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly 
and Chairman of its Foreign Relations Committee. I had met Mr. Thuy 
earlier in Paris in 1969 and 1971, where he was, along with Le Due 

» I was subsequently told In Saigon by Madame Llnh Quy, press liaison In the PRO 
foroipn ministry, and by Foreign Minister Binh, that requests for return to Vietnam would 
have to be Investigated on a case-by-case basis because of a fear of subversion. However, 
they also told me those who returned by chartered ship last year had all been reintegrated 
Into Vietnamese society. 

Tho, a principal negotiator for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. 
In Hanoi in January he emphasized the overriding reason why the 
Vietnamese parties regard themselves as obligated to account for miss- 
ing personnel — because, in contrast to the position declared by Secre- 
tary of State Kissinger, they contend that the Agreement on Ending 
the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, including Article 21 on re- 
construction aid, remains a binding document. Xuan Thuy said : 

We are very faithful to our signature. You just mentioned that the United 
States is very anxious about the missing in action. That question is related to 
Article 8(b) of the Paris Agreement. That article has been implemented by our 
side. We are very much concerned about that article. 

We are still continuing our investigations. But there is no reason on the one 
hand the United States government just wanted to implement Article 8(b) ; why 
if refused to implement other provisions. 

In Saigon, Madame Binh, who I had also met before in Paris where 
she represented the National Liberation Front and, later, the Pro- 
visional Revolutionary Government, responded in a similar vein when 
I inquired in particular about the two Marines killed during the evacu- 
ation. I noted that Senator Kennedy had received correspondence re- 
garding these men. The subsequent exchange, beginning with Madame 
Binh's response, exemplifies the position we heard repeatedly in Hanoi 
and Saigon : 

Many people have given attention to this question. We have just heard of the 
remains on the two U.S. Marines so we need time to investigate and find out 
whether they are the American Marines. As a matter of fact, on those days a 
number of people died — Vietnamese and Americans — so we have to find out 
whether these two tombs are the remains of the Marines. 

I asked whether, once they were identified, the remains would be 
repatriated. She replied : "It is not our aim to keep them forever. That 
is no problem. They belong to the American people." 

I asked if the United Nations High Commissioner was assisting on 
the identification, noting that they have access to technical resources 
to identify remains. She responded that High Commission representa- 
tives had asked for certain information on these cases. Then she 
continued : 

Aside from the humanitarian matters involved, we must define the responsi- 
bility of the United States government concerning this point. It is true that Mr. 
Kissinger signed the Paris Agreement on behalf of the U.S. government. Mr. Kis- 
singer said that the Paris Agreement is not binding now, but we are saying that 
the Paris Agreement has been implemented on the fundamental points. The agree- 
ment stipulates that the United States and other countries respect the independ- 
ence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam. By now the United 
States, either winning or not, has been forced to respect that right. So it may be 
said that the Paris Agreement has been implemented on this point. 

On the right of self-determination of the South Vietnamese people in the agree- 
ment, what we are doing now is the implementation of the right of self-determi- 
nation of our people in the most complete way. I have just told you about the 
general elections throughout the country, and I think this is the best way to 
realize the self-determination of the South Vietnamese people. Previously we pro- 
posed to fix the time for the National Council of Reconciliation and Concord to 
hold the election. But Mr. Kissinger refused. So we are taking this way. and after 
one year of liberation we will hold the election. But some articles have not been 
implemented. We need to have a discussion of these things. 

When I raised with Xuan Thuy the issues of the Americans remain- 
ing in South Vietnam and relatives and dependents of April, L975, 
evacuees, he suggested that I discuss them with officials in Saigon. 
Therefore I placed a major emphasis on these matters in conversations 

with Madame Binh and with Mr. Huynh Tan Phat. president of the 
Provisional Revolutionary Government. The responses indicated that 
these questions are not necessarily linked to the Paris Agreement. I 
asked President Phat if Americans and members of families in the 
United States would be free to leave the country. He replied : 

We will examine the cases, and if they are the husbands and wives of Ameri- 
cans, we will create the conditions for them to meet . . . These people are vic- 
tims of the war conducted by the warlike. There are not only Americans but 
other foreigners who want to leave. We are considering the ways and means 
to return them. 

When T presented lists to Madame Binh she, too, indicated that there 
was no fundamental obstacle of policy. The main problem is one of 
administration — setting priorities for departure among residents of 
various foreign countries, arranging transportation, all in the context 
of serious problems of unemployment and economic reconstruction. 

My party had flown to Saigon on the morning of Thursday, Janu- 
ary 15. on the daily government flight. The schedule called for us to 
leave again for Hanoi early the following morning. However, we were 
told that the plane developed technical problems and the flight was 
postponed until afternoon. The discussions with President Phat and 
Foreign Minister Binh had been held late in the afternoon and in the 
evening of the day before. While the aircraft was being readied for 
departure, we found that the PRG had also been readying a response 
to the list of Americans in South Vietnam that I had given Madame 
Binh the night before. 

Madame Binh met us at Tan Son Nhut and stated that "According 
to the Senator ? s request, a number of Americans will be permitted to 

She mentioned two names in particular — James Klassen and Joseph 
Brickman — as being prepared to leave "in the near future," and she 
said the PRG would continue with the rest of the list. She indicated 
that arrangements for transportation would be made by her 

This step, along with the generally positive response on providing 
for the reunification of at least wives and husbands of people now 
living in the United States, was not tied to implementation of the 
Paris Agreement. I presume that is because they addressed concerns 
which arose from new circumstances which developed after the agree- 
ment and which were therefore not contemplated by its terms. At the 
same time these accommodations were plainly offered as a response 
to my trip, which the Vietnamese saw as a gesture, however small, m 
the direction of better U.S.-Vietnamese relations.! cannot predict 
how much further they will go without a substantive response from 
the United States. 

Gestures on Missing in Action personnel — the delivery of remains 
to the House Select Committee, whatever follow through there is on 
my suggestion f a status report, and the action on the two Marines 
killed during the evacuation of Saigon — must be seen in a similar 
context. But beyond that, it is quite clear that the Vietnamese see their 
obligation of MTAs as deriving from the Paris Agreement. Additional 
gestures may be made. But it does not seem likely that a complete 
accounting can be had in the absence of a serious reference to what 
was established in Paris three years ago. 


Therefore it is worth reexamining in some detail the evolution, 
implementation, violation, and presumed dissolution of the Paris 
Agreement, with special attention to the Vietnamese point of view. 

The Paris Agreement Reconsidered 

a. a negotiated victory 

It was too readily assumed at the time, and it is too easily accepted 
in retrospect, that Vietnamese revolutionaries in 1973 and 1974 were 
only biding their time and preparing themselves to violate the cease- 
fire and take over South Vietnam b}' force. I think the opposite im- 
pression would prevail if the situation there after the Paris Agreement 
had been followed as closely as it was during the years of direct Ameri- 
can involvement in the fighting. 

I do not mean to suggest that the DRV and PEG, by accepting the 
Paris Agreement, had thereby given up their goal of a reunified Viet- 
nam. Rather they saw the agreement as a means of shaping an evolu- 
tion toward the same ends without war. The agreement did, after all, 
represent vital victories for their side. 

Nearly 19 years after the Geneva Agreement, the United States 
finally accepted the principle that Vietnam is one country and the 
division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel was only a temporary 
line of demarcation. We pledged to respect the "independence, sover- 
eignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Vietnam as recognized by the 
1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam." \Ve pledged that the United 
States would "not continue its military involvement or intervene in 
the internal affairs of South Vietnam." And, as noted, we pledged 
reconstruction aid. 

The most meaningful gains were political. A strategy adopted in 
June of 1969. when the Provisional Revolutionar}- Government was 
formed, bore fruit in the Agreement's recognition of the PRG, along 
with third force elements, as an equal of the Thieu government in 
shaping the political future of South Vietnam. The Agreement guar- 
anteed the PRG the right to join in the preparations for and the 
administration of internationally supervised elections, a provision 
which was — had the agreement been fully implemented — obviously 
of far greater significance than the question of who would nominally 
control the government of South Vietnam until the elections took 
place. It is especially important to consider this point in the context 
of the fact that the DRV and PRG believed — with apparently good 
reason, in light of President Thiens compulsion to lock up the mount- 
ing third force opposition in 1973 and 1974 — that Thiens control was 
highly fragile and that his government could not remain politically 
viable for long without the war and without a substantial American 

So in the context of the goals they had pursued for more than a 
generation, the DRV and the PRG had £-ood reason to seek scrupulous 
enforcement of the Paris Agreement. President Nixon's 197:'; postur- 
ing about "peace with honor" tended to obscure the fact that the agree- 
ment was hailed as a triumph in Hanoi and was enthusiastically dis- 
tributed by the DRV and the VVG. In contrast to President Nixon's 
portrayal." Secretary Kissinger's earlier references to the basic United 


States' need for a "decent interval" before reunification under Com- 
munist authority was a much fairer description of the 1973 settlement. 
But it was a valid assessment not only on the assumption that the 
agreement would fail; it was also the most reasonable project if 
the agreement, in all particulars, had been kept. 


Continuous DRV and PEG support for the agreement from the 
beginning was impressed upon me in Vietnam in January. But the 
statements of Vietnamese officials only fleshed out the conclusions I 
thought were apparent long before, on the basis of independent re- 
ports. I argued strenuously in January of 1975 that the Thieu govern- 
ment, not the DKV and PRG, had systematically violated and 
thwarted the Paris Agreement, and that more arms aid to Thieu was 
a way to sabotage the Paris Agreement, not sustain it. 

In fact Mr. Thieu had repudiated the agreement at the outset. lie 
suppressed the text, ignored the political terms, and used political 
propaganda to grossly misrepresent what he had signed. He prevented 
establishment of the National Council of Reconciliation and. Concord, 
and even outlawed the neutralists who were to have one-third of that 
agency's power. He plainly recognized, as did his aspiring successors, 
that the agreement entailed a considerable, and probably fatal, dimi- 
nution of his power. 

Of course the distasteful implications of the agreement did not alter 
its terms or its binding effect on the United States and the Thieu^ re- 
gime. So it was simply repudiated. The statement of Thieu's prime 
minister, Tran Thien Khiem on August 1, 1973, is illustrative: 

We will not let the Paris Agreement decide the fate of South Vietnam. Our 
army is determined to decide the fate of South Vietnam. Today the world does 
not rely on international law but on force. 

Militarily, in actions which were passed off by such innocuous de- 
scriptions as "jockeying for position," Saigon's forces went on the 
offensive against PRG and North Vietnamese zones of control within 
hours after the agreement was signed. 

Admiral Thomas Moorer summarized the initial results in February 
of 1974, stating that ARVJST— 

. . . have increased their control overall from 76 percent to 82 percent during 
the past year. In other words President Thieu is consolidating his position, and 
I think gaining more control . . . the North Vietnamese . . . published a policy 
indicating that they were going to concentrate on political action in an effort 
to gain more territory, and not go forward with large-scale military activity. 
They have openly published this track, and they have been following it. 4 

A Newsweek journalist who had been that magazine's Saigon bureau 
chief published a careful analysis in January, 1975, in which he termed 
Saigon the "more guilty party" in the eventual breakdown of the 
ceasefire. He saw three phases to Saigon's strategy: First, the period 
from January to December, 1973, during which Saigon tried to elimi- 
nate smaller PRG zones of control and resettle refugees in contested 
areas: second, the period from January to May, 1974, in which ARVN 
took large-scale offensive operations under Thieu's instructions to "hit 

4 "Department of Defense Appropriations for 1975," U.S. House of Representatives, 
Department of Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, pt. I, p. 503. 


them in their base areas" ; and, finally, beginning in May, 1974, the 
North Vietnamese decision to move militarily to regain lost land and 
people and to undermine AEVN's military capability. 5 


As to the DRV and PRG, the author of this Foreign Affairs study 
reported that "the Communists . . . were unprepared for— and stag- 
gered by — the aggressiveness of the government's operation." The 
article continued: 

What is extraordinarily important in this military picture is, of course, the 
degree of restraint shown by the North Vietnamese forces. 

• •**•** 

. . . the North Vietnamese have chosen to stay inside the parameters of the 
Paris peace agreements by generally not attempting to take land that was firmly 
under the control of the South Vietnamese at the time of the ceasefire. 

In my view this perceptive analysis fell down at a crucial point, 
when the author attempted to divine the reasons for DRV and PRG 
moderation. He cited potential problems in their aid relationship with 
the Soviet Union and China, a possible politburo decision to postpone 
the reunification goal for a time while rebuilding damage in the 
North, and a faith in Hanoi that time was on their side because the 
Saigon government would ultimately weaken from within. But all of 
those answers incorporate to at least some extent an assumption that a 
main Communist objective was an eventual military takeover of the 
South. And each overlooks an answer which is both less complicated 
and far more obvious : That the DRV and PRG position throughout 
was to insist on compliance by all parties with all provisions, includ- 
ing the vital political terms, of the Paris Agreement; that they con- 
tinued to expect that the United States would pressure its ally in 
Saigon to live up to the obligations imposed by the agreement; and 
that when they finally did respond in 1974, their action was initially 
most consistent with a desire not to abandon the agreement but to 
insist upon compliance. 

Such an interpretation carries with it the disquieting realization 
that the United States still had the capability in 1973 and 1974 to 
avoid the ultimate military defeat of the Saigon government, by 
using aid leverage or limitations on Thieu, merely to uphold the same 
agreement which was called "peace with honor" when it was signed. 
Of course such leverage was not employed. 6 

5 Maynard Parker, "Vietnam : The War That Won't End," Foreign Affairs, January 

•For a scholarly and compelling analysis of the Paris Agreement and subsequent events 
based on the Issues that were at stake throughout the war, see D. Gareth Porter, "A 
Peace Denied : The United States, Vietnam, and the Paris Agreement," Indiana Uni- 
versity Press, 1975. Porter marshalls convincing evidence and argumentation for his 
conclusion that the Nixon Administration, not the Thieu government, blocked the October 
1972, signing of the agreement and that the Administration never intended that the 
agreement would be implemented. Rather, he contends, the Paris settlement was designed 
primarily as a change of tactics, within the Nixon Doctrine, to continue the prosecution of 
the war with Vietnamese ground troops, massive American military aid, and unrestricted 
American support from the air. According to Porter, the scheme was finally Laid to rest 
by the Watergate revelations and by Congressional prohibitions against a continued U.S. 
air war in Vietnam. He concludes that — 

"The conflict ended in complete military victory for the PRG rather than in a negotiated 
solution, because the United States refused to adjust Its policy to the new balance ol forces 
reflecting the fact that the United States clearly would not again intervene with air power 
in Vietnam. Kissinger and Nixon refused to use their power to force a political change 
because they found it more compatible with both domestic political needs and 
policy objectives to lose militarily while playing the 'good ally' than to actively 
political solution to bring an end to the war." 


Even the events of the spring of 1975, leading to the final collapse of 
Saigon can be squared with a DRV-PRG effort to enforce, rather than 
bypass, the Paris accord. Their offensive was accompanied by offers to 
negotiate toward a political result. There is substantial evidence that 
they did not expect their attacks to end in a military takeover of Saigon 
but that their primary motive was to exert a pressure for a change of 
government in the South — to replace President Thieu with a leadership 
that would be willing to abide by the Paris Agreement. The decisive 
factor in the outcome was not the weight and breadth of the offensive 
but the wholesale disintegration of Thieirs forces, especially around 
key cities on the central coast. The abandonment of territory developed 
its own momentum. Pursuing forces reportedly had a difficult time 
keeping up with the retreat, often arriving in villages and cities as 
much as a day or two after the defenders had left. 

By that time it is, of course, understandable that in light of Thieu's 
intransigence and unwavering U.S. support, DRV and PEG strategists 
had given up any hope that the agreement could be implemented with 
Thieu still in power in Saigon. 

And the implication came through strongly during my January 
discussions in Hanoi and Saigon that the "liberation" of South Viet- 
nam was itself regarded as being carried out in the context of the 
agreement. In the conversation quoted above (pp. 14-15) PRG Foreign 
Minister Binh implied that it was the replacement of the Thieu gov- 
ernment which had forced the United States to respect the "independ- 
ence, sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Vietnam" as 
provided in the agreement. She stressed the forthcoming national elec- 
tions, thwarted under Thieu, as fulfillment of the agreement's guar- 
antee of self-determination. 

In a more detailed conversation regarding the Paris Agreement, 
Xuan Thuy told me that after the agreement was signed — 

The White House continued to give more and more aid to the Thieu regime, 
and the war went on. Thieu's troops made operations into PRG controlled areas. 

We urged the American side to correctly implement the Paris Agreement. We 
really wanted to have the agreement implemented, because it was we who first 
offered the agreement. And we believed that if it were implemented correctly 
it would be beneficial to both Vietnam and the United States and to the cause of 
peace in the world. However, our appeal brought no results. 

Finally we had to reassess the situation. We concluded that the United States 
was not faithful to its signature and that it just wanted to deceive us. They just 
wanted to withdraw the American troops and bring home the POWs, but not 
to implement the other provisions. 

It was our opinion that Mr. Nixon continued his policy in Vietnam on the 
basis of the Nixon doctrine. And that led to a general offensive and to uprisings 
of the people and army of Vietnam in the spring of 1975. 

10 ven just before the launching of the general offensive, we still thought it 
would be better if the agreement could be implemented. But what the United 
States had done showed clearly that even at the last moment the United States 
would not implement it. 

I asked Xuan Thuy if there were parts of the agreement they would 
consider to be no longer binding; for example, did they anticipate 
having international supervision of elections as provided in the 

He responded that: 

. . . Those provisions no longer conform with the realities of South Vietnam 
and Vietnam in general. We consider those provisions which are still in con- 
formity will; reality. For example, Article 1 of the Paris Agreement . . . will exist 


forever. Article 21, the United States still has an obligation to do that. When the 
U.S. wanted us to implement Article 8(b), we have tried to realize that. But the 
general election is now a totally internal affair. 

Similarly, when I asked about the National Council of Reconcilia- 
tion and Concord, Mr. Thuy replied that it had not been formed 
because — 

. . . the situation in South Vietnam after liberation was quite different. It 
changed. If the United States government and Thieu had agreed to implement 
the first agreement seriously, then there would have been formation of that 

lie cited the agreement again in referring to current plans for re- 
unification. Those goals "conform with the realities of Vietnam and 
conform with the guarantee of the agreement signed." 

I Avas also told that at least within the spirit of the agreement, Third 
Force members were included in the South Vietnamese delegation to 
the joint meetings on reunification. News accounts had earlier con- 
firmed that "at least seven known Third Force personalities" were on 
the delegation, and also that there was a representative of South 
Vietnam's Khmer community. 7 

Against the background of events in 1973 and 1974, I found these 
descriptions of DRV and PRG support for the agreement to be con- 
vincing, and far more credible than the more Byzantine speculation 
we heard before. This interpretation does, of course, establish a strong 
logical and historical framework for the present Vietnamese con- 
tention that the Paris Agreement remains in effect. It is not a conten- 
tion which can be casually dismissed. 

Nor should it be. At a minimum, if Ave attach even the slightest im- 
portance to the nature of our future relationship with Vietnam, or to 
the humanitarian issues still pending, then at the very least Ave must 
understand the basis for the current posture of the Vietnamese. 


In the course of a general description of eA'ents immediately preced- 
ing and immediately following the Paris Agreement, Xuan Thuy re- 
vealed that there Avas also an agreement on a specific level of American 

The October, 1972, draft agreement, he said, AA^as cabled by Secretary 
Kissinger to President Nixon. According to Thuy, Mr. Nixon 
"ansAvered that he would agree, and he made an appointment in 
October that it would be signed." 

Later he asked for the signing to be postponed for a later time, and he de- 
manded that some agreed upon provisions be changed. We told them that they 
could modify details but they could not, it was impossible, to modify the 

In an earlier dinner conversation Xuan Thuy said Secretary 
Kissinger had made a "definite commitment" to sign the agreement by 
the end of October, but that he "swallowed his promise." Thuy said the 
Secretary had been asked directly if he could speak for Saigon in 
making that commitment, and he ({noted the response as u l would not 
be here if I couldn't." 

7 Nayan Chanda, "Two Paths for a 'United' Vietnam," Far Eastern Economic Review, 
Nov. 28, 1975, p. IS. 


When President Nixon requested a postponement in the signing, 
Xuan Thuy said they received word from "confidential sources" that 
the United States was, in fact, backing out on its commitment to the 
agreement. That, he said, is why the DKV made its public announce- 
ment that an agreement had been reached and that it was to be signed 
by the end of October — so the public "would know an agreement was 
made, and that it was not we who were blocking it." 

When the negotiations broke up it was the North Vietnamese under- 
standing, according to Xuan Thuy, that the teams were reporting to 
their respective governments. Thuy was still in Paris meeting with 
Ambassador Bruce when the December, 1972, bombing began. Le Due 
Tho had arrived in Hanoi barely two hours before. 

During the Christmas bombing, Xuan Thuy said the White House 
sent word that they wanted to meet again. But he recalled that "our 
government said that we would only meet again under the condition 
that the United States must stop the bombing." The bombing stopped 
and the agreement was signed on January 27. 

On the question of aid, Thuy said the first agreement included a 
commitment on the part of the United States to "participate in the 
healing of the war wounds and the reconstruction of Vietnam." Then, 
at the time of the January agreement, Thuy said Mr. Nixon sent a 

In his letter to Premier Pliam Van Dong, Nixon said the United States would 
participate in the healing of the war wounds in postwar Vietnam and would give 
$3.25 billion in economic aid. He also proposed the establishment of a special 
economic commission. We agreed. 

However, after discussions in Paris, there was no result. We concluded that 
the American side just promised reparations but in fact they didn't want to 
implement the promise. 

Information on this specific aid agreement had also been supplied by 
Deputy DRV Foreign Minister Phan Hien to the members of the 
House Select Committee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia during 
their December visit to Hanoi. The Nixon message, dated February 1, 
1973, was described as stating that the U.S. would contribute to the 
reconstruction of North Vietnam "without any political conditions," 
that the U.S. contribution would be $3.25 billion over a five-year 
period, with other forms of aid to be agreed upon by the two sides, 
that details were to be reviewed by the two governments, and that a 
Joint Economic Commission would be formed to complete negotia- 
tions on the details of an aid agreement. Pham Van Dong responded 
immediately with a message confirming all the points in the Nixon 

The Joint Economic Commission described in this exchange began 
meeting in Paris on March 15, 1973, and, according to information 
supplied to the House Select Committee, it did prepare a draft 
agreement : 

. . . the Commission had actually reached agreement on the total amount of 
grant aid to be provided . . . the percentage to be spent in the United States 
(85 percent) and in third countries (15 percent), the list of commodities to be 
purchased over the entire five years, and the commodities to be purchased dur- 
ing the first year. 

. . . the United States was expected to play a central role in the reconstruc- 
tion of North Vietnam, with the emphasis on industrial plants and commodi- 
ties, infrastructure, and energy. The five-year plan provides for plants for pre- 


fabricated housing, plumbing fixtures, sanitary porcelain ware, cement, sheet 
glass, chipboard, synthetic paint, and a steel mill with an annual output of one 
million tons. The contribution to energy development included a thermal power 
station with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts, a high tension electrical equipment 
plant with an annual output of 3,000 tons, and 20,000 metric tons of high tension 
copper cable. In addition, the agreement included a provision of a vast array of 
equipment for port reconstruction and water, road, and rail transport, and for 
agriculture. 8 

The Commission, including three delegates from each side, met until 
President Nixon suspended U.S. implementation of the Paris Agree- 
ment in April. It met again in June and July. But on July 23, when 
the detailed aid agreement was scheduled to be signed, the United 
States instead broke off all talks indefinitely. 

The existence of the letter from President Nixon to Pham Van 
Dong — and its existence has been confirmed by State Department 
spokesmen in recent weeks — creates serious circumstantial doubts 
about the Administration's assertions at the time that they had agreed 
to no specific aid program in the context of the Paris Agreement. Be- 
lieving that in retrospect requires acceptance of one of two highly un- 
likely events: Either that President Nixon set the $3.25 billion figure 
on his own and voluntarily forwarded the letter, or else that somehow 
the two sides worked feverishly between January 27 and February 1 
to agree upon the specific amount and the terms that were included in 
the Nixon message. More likely the Nixon memorandum itself was the 
product of earlier hard bargaining and an undisclosed understanding 
reached before the Paris Agreement was signed. That, too, has been 
confirmed privately by knowledgeable sources in the Administration. 

In turn, the Nixon memorandum and the negotiating context de- 
scribed by Xuan Thuy both undercut the Administration's claim — 
which was wobbly enough at the time — that the Christmas bombing 
produced major negotiating results for the United States. As Xuan 
Thuy described it, the bombing halt was not a magnanimous gesture 
on the part of the United States, but a North Vietnamese precondi- 
tion to resuming the discussions. The bombing could not have long 
continued anyway, because, at the same loss rates, the entire fleet of 
B-52 bombers assigned to Southeast Asia would have been lost in 
about 90 days time. Then, as a consequence of the added damage in- 
flicted upon North Vietnam, the Administration had to agree to a re- 
construction aid figure much higher than anyone had supposed (no 
specific aid figure was ever formally requested of the Congress, but 
the sum discussed in widespread news accounts was $2.5 billion for 
North Vietnam) . 

Further, the details of the aid discussions carried out pursuant to 
the Nixon letter, and the existence of an actual draft aid agreement, 
shed new light on the question of who was responsible for the even- 
tual collapse of the ceasefire. Up until July 23, 1973, the Vietnamese 
had every reason to believe that the Administration planned to pro- 
vide reconstruction aid. That was another strong incentive for them 
to maintain a purely defensive military posture. But on July 23, the 
Nixon Administration broke off the aid talks, and seemed to be add- 
ing a new condition — a requirement that the Vietnamese somehow ar- 
range a ceasefire in Cambodia — to the terms of the Paris Agreement. 

8 Staff Memorandum to House Select Committee on Missing Persons, Jan. 30, 1976. 


This was also a deviation from the Xixon letter, which promised the 
aid "without any political conditions." By the most knowledgeable 
accounts, it was only then — when the Xixon Administration, as well 
as the Thieu government, had demonstrated bad faith — that the Viet- 
namese Communists began to prepare for a more aggressive military 
response to ARYX incursions. 9 

I did not receive the impression in Hanoi that the disclosures on the 
Xixon letter and the draft aid agreement were made to reflect the cur- 
rent Xorth Vietnamese position on the amount of aid they would ex- 
pect from the United States if the United States were to accept its 
obligations under Article 21. That provision of the Paris Agreement 
came up repeatedly in my meetings with both DRV and PEG officials,, 
yet the Xixon message was not mentioned by anyone other than Xuan 
Thuy. Moreover, it was then raised not in connection with our discus- 
sions of Article 21, but in the context of a description of the negotiat- 
ing process in late 1972 and early 1973. 

To be sure, the extent of the destruction to Xorth Vietnam was 
brought home forcefully. I was told that up until July, 1972, the ma- 
terial loss amounted to more than $8 billion, exclusive of the Christ- 
mas bombing. We saw the Bach Mai hospital which we were told had 
been bombed three times — June 27, December 19, and December 22 — 
in 1972. On the latter occasion, we were told, more than 100 bombs 
struck, and 28 medical personnel were killed. The hospital has been 
rebuilt since the war, but slides were used to demonstrate its earlier 
condition. Our guides told us aid for rebuilding the hospital had come 
from China, and that $1 million in private American contributions 
had been sent through Medical Aid for Indochina. We also saw sec- 
tions of dike four kilometers from Hanoi which had been bombed 
and rebuilt. The earliest attacks on the dikes were in August of 1066. 
we were told, and then again in 1967, in 1968, and during the Christ- 
mas bombing in 1972. 

The dikes are obviously crucial not only in Xorth Vietnamese agri- 
culture but to prevent flooding of populated areas. We crossed the 
two-kilometer bridge which handles motor, rail, bic} T cle, and foot 
traffic across the Red River separating Hanoi from Gia Lam airport. 
It had been destroyed three times during the war. We stopped in a 
residential area, the Kham Thien District near the center of Hanoi, 
which was described as the site of the most severe human losses in 
the Christmas bombing — 270 people killed on the night of December 
26, 1972. We were told that thousands of unexploded bombs still exist 
in the rural areas of Xorth Vietnam, and that they still cause oc- 
casional fatalities. Premier Pham Van Dong described massive dam- 
age to factories, communications and transportation networks, schools, 
housing, and hospitals. Xuan Thuy said that if we had been there 
in early 1973, we would have seen that all railroads and roads had 
been damaged and that all major bridges had been destroyed. He 
reported that much has been restored, but not the railroads. New 
school construction permits study in two shifts a day now. ins! cad 
of three. 

•See "Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam : April 107.?," Staff Report, United<-< Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, June 11, 107.1, for a description of the 
PRG military strategy until that time. 


Notwithstanding these descriptions, I came away with the im- 
pression that the Xorth Vietnamese remain flexible on the size and 
nature of any potential American aid program. Premier Pham Van 
Dong put it in terms of the American people having "some part*' in 
rebuilding the country. He did not mention the Xixon memorandum 
or the 1973 proceedings of the Joint Economic Commission : instead 
he said that ''The exact sum is not mentioned in the Paris Agreement. 
but it is a matter of honor, responsibility and conscience.*' 

The Political Futttre of Vietnam 

a. ixterxal developments 

The political reunification of Vietnam is moving ahead under the 
terms of an announcement of November 9. 1975. Delegations of 25 
members each from the Xorth and South met in Saigon Xovember 15 
through Xovember 21. 1975. to establish more concrete plans for 
reunification. They agreed that sometime within the first six months 
of 1976 nationwide elections would be held for establishment of a 
single Xational Assembly. That Assembly will, in turn, adopt the 
program for the complete political and economic integration of Xorth 
and South. They hoped to hold the election on April 30 — the "libera- 
tion" anniversary — but PEG leaders cited possible problems in meet- 
ing the deadline. A census is underway to arrive at current population 
figures, and the thorny problem of apportioning delegates within the 
South must also be addressed, within the context of plans to encourage 
relocation in the countryside of as many as possible of the people 
who were brought to Saigon and other cities during the war. 

The elections will certainly lead to completion of the formal reunifi- 
cation of Vietnam for international purposes. There will be a single 
capital (probably Hanoi, although embassies in Saigon — including 
the American embassy — have not been converted to alternative pur- 
poses, presumably on the grounds that they may be needed perhaps 
as consulates, by their governments again one day). There will 1>.> 
a single national administrative structure, and a single foreign policy 

But the long division of Vietnam, going back formally to 1954, 
has left enormous cultural and economic differences between the 
Xorth and the South, and they will not be fully reconciled soon. The 
distinctions were readily apparent even on a short visit to the two 
principle urban centers of Vietnam. Hanoi with few automobiles 
and countless bicycles, is a relatively quiet, clean, and austere city: 
Saigon is -till a swarm with Hondas and cars, and the atmosphere on 
busy streets seems to be composed of as much carbon monoxide as 
Hanoi has relatively few stores, and most stock basic commodi 
Saifiron's main thoroughfares are jammed with shops, pushcarts, and 
peddlers selling everything from finely made lacquer pieces to cheap 
trinkets, from American cigarettes and soda to bottles of gasoline. 
In Hanoi the streets are filled with people, but rhev all seem r <> : 
their way someplace or doing something; in Saigon many people 
appeared to be simply standing around (unempL South 


is officially set at 2.5 million). Hanoi seems traditional and dignified; 
Saigon is a mixture of East and West, and still has a gaudy, carnival 

The cultural difference was exemplified by the musical entertain- 
ment to which we were treated : In Hanoi we heard a mixed program 
performed by conservatory students — European violin, piano and 
cello, classical pieces by Chopin, Brahms, Lizst, and Shostakovich, 
and traditional Vietnamese pieces played on sixteen-string and one- 
string guitars. In Saigon we heard a band which had performed at 
the Caravelle and Majestic hotels during the Thieu era. They per- 
formed post-Liberation patriotic songs in swing and rock style, on 
elect lie guitars, saxophones, horns, drums, clarinets, and violins. 

Obviously there has not been an abrupt transformation of Saigon. 
Compared to my last visit there in 1971, the main visual differences 
I could detect were the absence of Americans and their partial replace- 
ment by North and South Vietnamese troops, the presence of posters 
and billboards with revolutionary slogans, and the omnipresent 
pictures of Ho Chi Minh — including a very large painting above 
the entrance to Independence Palace. 

Nor, we were told, will there be a rapid transition. Currency has 
been exchanged from piastres to dong, but a substantial amount of 
wealth remains in private hands. Many major enterprises are still 
privately run. Madame Binh told us there are five segments to the 
economy : The portion that is privately owned, parts run by coopera- 
tives, production through a mixture of State and private ownership, 
collective economic centers, and the state economy. She said those five 
sections "will exist here for some time." Others spoke of a twenty-year 

PEG officials emphasized two major public priorities. One is to 
repopulate rural areas, and President Phat conceded that, "It is not a 
simple task. People want to stay in the city." Apparently some people 
who had been relocated from Saigon simply came back. Now the 
problem is being approached on a more deliberate basis, beginning 
with the construction of new housing in villages and the reclamation 
of farmland. A total of 500,000 people have been successfully re- 
located thus far. As one result, Phat said South Vietnam is now self- 
sufficient in rice production. They hope to begin exporting rice again 
next year, reasserting the rice-surplus status they held before 1965. 

Other major government objectives are to deal with drug traffick- 
ing, to rehabilitate drug addicts, and to end prostitution. The philoso- 
phy behind the approach in these areas is heralded in the names of the 
treatment centers — centers for the rehabilitation of the "dignity of 
young men" or the "dignity of women." Treatment of addicts in- 
volves education, acupuncture, herbs, exercise, and fellowship, espe- 
cially through music. 

Aside from these most urgent tasks, the timetable for any signifi- 
cant roconstitution of Saigon will likely be set by at least three inter- 
dependent imponderables — the rate at which the vast quantity of 
consumer items left over is either used up or worn out, the pace and 
ultimate extent of relocation, and the rate at which the population 
can be motivated toward revolutionary objectives. Though western 
multi-party democracy is out of place, officials in Saigon did appear 


to be sensitive to the political and economic habits acquired during 
the western presence in South Vietnam and to the dangers of attempt- 
ing to change things too quickly. This is, of course, in line with the 
premises long enunciated in North Vietnam, principally by Lao Dong 
(Vietnam Workers) Party First Secretary Le Duan, that revolution 
is an evolutionary process. When I asked Madame Binh whether she 
foresaw a degree of independence for the South even after political 
reunification, she replied : 

I don't know exactly your meaning of "independence." Within the framework 
of a unified North and South, there will be an understanding that certain deci- 
sions about the nature of the economy and the government will be left to each 
zone, so that they can proceed under policies that are best adapted to the local 
conditions of the two zones. 


From an American perspective any discussion of Vietnam's post- 
war internal condition is, of course, incomplete without some account- 
ing for wartime predictions that there would be a monstrous 
"bloodbath" in the South if the PEG were ever to take control. Along 
with the return of our prisoners of war, the avoidance of a bloodbath 
did become, after all, the most frequently proclaimed rationale for 
continuing the war long after most Americans had come to oppose it. 

I obviously cannot document the seeming absence of widespread 
reprisals or executions in South Vietnam. I cannot declare on the basis 
of personal observation that these things did not occur. But I do have 
some strong impressions on the subject. And they are based as much 
on what I saw in Saigon, and on what I heard in discussions on seem- 
ingly unrelated subjects, as on what was said in response to my spe- 
cific "bloodbath" inquiries. These factors, together with a certain 
amount of common sense, strongly support a conclusion that the 
bloodbath theory was one of the great false alarms of all time. 

As a practical matter, systematic reprisals would have required an 
enormous administrative apparatus simply to locate and identity the 
proper victims. If the Provisional Revolutionary Government has such 
a capability, they certainly keep it well concealed. "We were told, and 
it seems quite plausible, that most of the administrative positions in 
the government are still held by the same people who held them under 
President Thieu. The PRG does hold what political power there is in 
Saigon. But we saw no indication that they — or anyone — actually 
controls or runs the city. For example, an inquiry on the source of 
the gasoline we saw being sold by street vendors brought the admis- 
sion, "We have no idea." We covered a great deal of Saigon by car, 
and we walked through the market area on foot. There were sound 
trucks broadcasting political messages, but there were no visible trap- 
pings of an authoritarian State. We saw few policemen, and they were 
not visibly armed. We saw few military uniforms in the central city. 

Further, regardless of what their inclinations might be, the PRG 
has a political need to be tolerant of past events. In Saigon, at least, 
it is quite certain that they were in a minority when they arrived 
last April, notwithstanding the evacuation of many of Thieu's closest 
supporters. Possibly some urban dwellers were sympathetic, but most 
were likely apolitical at best. The final U.S. withdrawal and the 


evacuation could only aggravate the economic plight of the hundreds 
of thousands remaining who had grown accustomed to living com- 
paratively well, oif the fat of the American war presence and heavy 
economic aid. Under those circumstances, any attempt at a bloodbath 
would have outraged relatives and friends of the victims and would 
have isolated the PEG from the population whose support it needs 
to consolidate control and run the country. 

PRG officials surely understand these realities. They understood 
very well the causes of the weakness of the Thieu regime, upon which 
they capitalized. They are not likely to repeat his mistakes and im- 
pose a narrowiy-based regime ruling solely by force. On the contrary, 
as suggested in my earlier references to iheir forecasts on economic 
evolution, the entire thrust of the new government is to move steadily 
but gradually, with due regard for public acceptance, to reshape their 
society. And leaders who had no qualms about a bloodbath would 
certainly not tell visitors that relocation is a hard task because people 
"want to stay in the city.*' An iron-fisted regime would simply make 
people leave — as many of them were made to come to the cities in 
the first place. 

What do PRG officials themselves say on the subject of the blood- 
bath ? One guide scoffed at the idea : 

If we executed the soldiers, every family would be affected. They were 
drafted to fight the war. It was not their fault. Only a very few people have 
been executed — former soldiers of the Thieu army who were bandits, saboteurs. 
We have to make an example when we catch them red-handed. 

We were told that there is a serious crime problem in Saigon. Part 
of the reason is that they had no way of telling political prisoners 
from common criminals, so all were released. There is also a death 
penalty for major crimes, including treason against the new govern- 
ment. But the penalties apply to crimes committed since the PRG 
assumed power, not to crimes committed before. Madame Binh de- 
scribed their approach to those who had fought on behalf of the 
Thieu government : 

There were more than one million soldiers. For the rank and file soldiers, you 
could explain policy to them, and they are seen living with their families. For 
the high ranking officers, they need some time to learn and to study because 
they had greater responsibility during the war. 

I asked if they had executed any of Thieu's top people. 

Very few. A few were brought to the tribunals because they are the law 
offenders. The robbers, the killers, the criminals. We executed a few. Our policy 
is very clear on this point. For those who committed crimes in the past but who 
are now living normally as the other people, abiding by the law, we let them 
live as other people, without discrimination. But those who are continuing their 
activities against the people, against the law, we have to deal with them. 

Most Americans would probably find a policy of forced re-education 
offensive. We would regard their criminal penalties as very harsh. 
Bu1 we would hardly call these practices a "bloodbath'' — especially 
not in comparison to the bloodbath that went on for so many years on 
the thesis that a bloodbath would happen if it stopped. 

c. Vietnam's enternattonal posture 

The United States will, of course, have little to say about the in- 
ternal directions of Vietnam. We :uv I'-.w rnore concerned about how 


the reunited country will behave in international affairs, and particu- 
larly about how U.S. -Vietnam relations may develop. 

The watchwords of the Vietnamese foreign policy declared to us 
come directly from Article 14 of the Paris Agreement : 

South Vietnam will pursue a foreign policy of peace and independence. It will 
be prepared to establish relations with all countries irrespective of their political 
and social systems on the basis of mutual respect for independence and 
sovereignty and accept economic and technical aid from any country with no 
political conditions attached. 

Similar sentiments were stated over and over again by officials in 
both Hanoi and Saigon. 

My most extensive discussions on foreign polic}^ issues were with 
Premier Pham Van Dong. I asked him about relations with the Soviet 
Union and with the Peoples Republic of China, and he refused to 
comment on their differences: 

We firmly maintain our line of independence and sovereignty. That line 
requires that we have good relations with those two countries and those two 

Vietnam is receiving aid from both the Soviet Union and China. 
Conversations did tend to confirm the thrust of press accounts sug- 
gesting that Soviet aid is more extensive and more closely integrated 
into the five-year plan to be completed in 1980. 10 But we heard no 
hints of the traditional animosity toward China. When I asked 
whether he thought Ave were prudent to continue pursuing detente, 
Pham Van Dong brushed the question aside with the comment, "We 
do not intervene in your internal affairs . . . We have enough to do 

Cuba has also provided aid. in the form of an attractive tourist 
hotel, the Thang Loi ("Victory"), on the shore of one of Hanoi's five 
lakes. It was designed in Cuba and constructed by 500 Cuban workers, 
who completed the project in September of 1975. 

Vietnamese trade is most extensive with other socialist countries — 
bicycles, while manufactured in both Hanoi and Saigon, are also 
imported from China, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany. Petroleum 
comes from the Soviet Union, Algeria, and other Arab states. 

At the same time there is a keen interest in moving toward good 
relations with the United States. I think it is based on something more 
than their desire for reconstruction aid. 

I was frankly surprised at the lack of rancor, on the part of both 
public officials and the populous. I asked Xuan Oanh about the lack 
of voluntary discussion of the incredible human losses experienced by 
the Vietnamese during the war. lie replied, sadly, that "you could 
scarcely find a single family in the North or in the South that did 
not have one or two members killed in the war/' But, like his asso- 
ciates, Mr. Oanh then emphasized that the Vietnamese do not blame 
the American people for those losses. They see it as the work of mis- 
guided leaders — first the French, then the Americans. The extensive 
physical damage, they say. is the result of "Nixon's bombing." 

This was borne out in walks on the street. In Hanoi, especially, 
people seemed genuinely interested and friendly. (In the South the 
most common reaction to our presence was obvious incredulity.) 
Children, all of whom study English in school, as well as Russian and 

10 "Moscow Expands Aid to Vietnamese," Tlio New York Times, Feb. 1. 1976. 


French, tried out their vocabularies, shouting "hello" from across the 

Both Xuan Thuy and Pham Van Dong brought to mind a long- 
standing Vietnamese admiration for American traditions. The 
Premier noted that I had come to Vietnam in the year of the 200th 
anniversary of the U.S. Declaration of Independence — a document 
which Ho Chi Minh leaned on extensively in drafting a similar 
declaration for Vietnam three decades ago. (I recalled that he had 
changed one of the self-evident truths to hold that all "people," not 
all "men," are created equal.) When I suggested to Pham Van Dong 
that I hoped he could reciprocate my visit and come to the United 
States, he said he was "waiting for something that will bring such 
good fortune." 

In the same positive vein, Xuan Oanh observed "We once stood 
with the Americans." He recalled that — 

Thirty years ago to the day before the last American left Saigon in 1975, 
American officers parachuted into the Vietnamese jungle for a meeting with 
Ho Chi Minh and General Giap, to plan a common strategy against the Japanese. 

On the question of normal diplomatic relations, Pham Van Dong 
said simply, "We are ready." The common U.S. interpretation has 
been that the Vietnamese will insist upon implementation of Article 21 
as a precondition to normalization. Pham Van Dong did say that the 
problem of reconstruction aid must be solved, but he said, "I do not 
think that the raising of that problem will cause difficulty in terms of 
normal relations." He continued : 

While we are broadening our relations with other countries in the world, we 
want to have that similar relationship with the United States. Why should we 
not have relations with such an important country as the United States? 

We also discussed trade possibilities. When I asked what com- 
modities they might want to import, Pham Van Dong said there were 
innumerable things and that the only question was what the Viet- 
namese would have to pay. I asked whether they would welcome the 
cooperation of U.S. oil companies in developing oil resources, and he 
responded, "Of course. Why not?" This is one of the things he said 
should be discussed at an official level. 

In summary, it appears to me that no country should expect its 
diplomatic, trade, or aid relationships to produce any significant in- 
fluence over Vietnam, either in internal or external affairs. After 
struggling and suffering so long for peace and independence, they are 
determined not to lose either. 

At the same time, and in the same spirit that moves them to heal 
the internal divisions which had them at war with each other barely 
10 months ago, they are more than ready to lay their battle with 
outsiders to rest, and to approach the future on the basis of mutual 
interest and mutual respect. 




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